Cooking with chokecherries made easy

If Dean Martin isn’t out fishing with his wife, Patty, you just may find him cooking and often for a crowd.

Dean grew up in North Dakota where he was no stranger to chokecherries. His mother, also a fabulous cook, served chokecherry jelly on homemade bread every day and chokecherry syrup was a staple.  Chokecherries were part of the pantry in the large family of eight children. In fact, growing up Dean didn’t realize there was such a thing as maple syrup. He credits his mom and his German heritage in part for his ability to cook for large groups, as he has no memory of a Sunday at home without 20-30 people over for a meal. His wife Patty grew up in a large family also, about 20 miles from Dean’s family, but they didn’t meet until after high school. 

Dean and Patty moved here in 1989 just for a “short” time until they decided whether to move to Billings or Great Falls, but they never left. They came from Bismarck and just figured they needed a larger town, but ended up finding they had what they needed right here.  

Dean has always liked to cook but really started doing much more of the cooking after the kids were grown to give Patty a break from cooking. Patty is an amazing cook herself, so those who have been at their table say they make an wonderful team and some delicious meals. 

Dean is happy to share recipes and meal ideas with anyone who asks. Recently he cooked several meals for a family reunion of 70 people, and made it sound like no big deal. The menus were filled with his famous chokecherry reduction sauce, smoked pork, grilled pineapple, watermelon and feta over chopped arugula salad and deconstructed kabobs, not to mention 50 pounds of pork and 30 pounds of chicken breasts. How do we get on that guest list?  

Dean has been entering some of his chokecherry culinary delights in the Chokecherry Culinary Contest since the 90s. Since retirement he is an avid volunteer, serving as a service officer of Post 16 and Legion Honor Guard, a member of the Vestry of St. James Episcopal, a Hospice volunteer, he volunteers one day a week at the VA, and sometimes helps out at the library and Art Center, just to name a few of his gifts to his community. His favorite retirement pastime, other than cooking, is fishing, even though he will tell you that his wife can out-fish him. They love fishing, even if they don’t catch anything. 

Be sure and “catch” them at the Chokecherry Culinary Contest this September and get a taste of his wonderful entry this year.

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