Inflation is taking its toll on (not) Irish fares


The corned beef enjoyed by many Americans on St. Patrick’s Day costs about 70 cents a pound more than a year ago, according to the US Department of Agriculture. (Photo by Kathryn McNutt)

OKLAHOMA CITY — Grocery store ads this week are touting corned beef, the price of which is about 18% higher than a year ago. If you’re looking for a cheaper option for St. Patrick’s Day dinner, you can opt for the traditional pork butt.

That’s right, corned beef and cabbage is an Irish-American tradition that originated here and not on the Emerald Isle.

Corned beef is a Jewish dish that immigrant Irish workers in New York bought from kosher butchers and adopted as a savory dish they could afford, says Oklahoma City chef and restaurateur Sean Cummings .

“Even we thought it was Irish. I was in an all-Irish household,” said Cummings, who grew up among a large Irish-Catholic population. It wasn’t until relatives from Ireland visited the family in Kansas City and asked, “What is this?” that the truth has been revealed.

Bacon and cabbage – made from pork butt – is Ireland’s best-known dish, he said. Immigrants replaced meat.

Corned beef and cabbage served with red potatoes is one of the two most-ordered dishes served at Sean Cummings’ Irish pub all year round and takes the top spot each March, Cummings said.

On Monday alone, he cooked 14 corned beef breasts in pickles. Cummings recommends home cooks toss out the spice packet that comes with corned beef and buy quality pickling spices that will “change the flavor astronomically.”

He used to start at the beginning and treat the beef brisket with kosher salt and Prague powder – which gives the beef its pink color – but the whole process takes at least a week, a- he declared. It’s a problem for a restaurant if it’s missing one of its most popular dishes.

This year, Cummings is charging a dollar more for corned beef and cabbage and other menu items — at least temporarily — because its food costs have gone up 20% to 30%. A bag of flour jumped the most from $10 to $18, he said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Retail Report shows advertised prices at major supermarkets March 11-17 are 70 cents per pound of corned beef higher than a year ago.

The report lists corned beef brisket at $4.18 a pound and corned beef flat cut learning at $4.98 a pound. The pork butt will save you about $3.

“Oklahoma pork farmers really take pride in producing delicious, quality products like ham that Oklahomans can enjoy on St. Patrick’s Day and every other day of the year,” said Kylee Deniz, executive director of the Oklahoma Pork Council.

Pork production is Oklahoma’s second-largest agricultural business, supporting one in every 50 jobs in the state and having an annual economic impact of $976 million, Deniz said.


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