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Her kitchen is poppin’

By Staff | Oct 3, 2014

ARLENE TWAIT MIXES the sugary coating through the popcorn to make the popcorn balls for which she is known.



RINGSTED- Challenge Arlene Twait to a popcorn ball-making contest, and she’ll say there’s only one way to make them anyway.

Her way is a little time-consuming, she said, adding that the end result is worth the time spent on making them.

Twait is locally famous for her popcorn balls, which she makes as gifts for family and friends, and for fundraising events.

ARLENE TWAIT’S POPCORN BALLS are salty and sweet, and they stay fresh and edible for up to a week.

“These aren’t quick – the process can’t be rushed,” said Twait, stirring a sugary mixture in a pan on top of her stove. “Most people will make the marshmallow kind, but I don’t like the taste of them as well as these.”

Twait uses a recipe she had since she was a child, with her mother teaching her how to make them. She takes pride in the fact that she has taught her grandchildren the process of making these delights, which show up every Halloween, Christmas and Easter.

She uses different food colorings for the sugar coating for each holiday.

Twait said one of the secrets to good popcorn balls is using white popcorn because of its superior taste and texture, though she said yellow popcorn would work, too. She said she also likes her homemade popcorn balls to look white. She insists on no microwave popcorn.

Twait said she grew up on a farm near Cylinder in Palo Alto County, but never actually helped in the field until she was married in 1957 to Bill Twait.

“I don’t do shortcuts. I use all of my old (tried and true) recipes.” —Arlene Twait Ringsted

She worked ground ahead of the planter and helped haul in grain every fall until this year, when she opted to be a “go-fer” after auto-steer came to her farm.

“I said I would help until we got auto-steer, and that happened this year,” she said.

Twait still lives on the Ringsted farm which she and Bill Twait built together, literally, from the ground up.

The land was farm ground until they created a homestead of sorts, building a house and several out buildings. Construction began in 1975.

“There wasn’t a tree here when we moved here,” she said, adding that she still plants one or two trees a year and keeps up her gardens, which are all reminders of special people in her life.

The Twaits finished hogs and raised a lot of cattle, along with raising row crops. She worked as an interior designer for an Emmetsburg-based company, and took meals to the field in the midst of all of that.

Some family favorites of the Twait family over the years included homemade goulash and her angel food cakes.

She said she is also known for her chocolate chip cookies, and that making kringla at her church is “a big deal.”

“You have to be taught how to make kringla,” she said. “It’s not something you can just do.”

She said her mother taught her how to make meal-time creations from their garden.

“I make a lot of pickles and applesauce, and give them away as gifts,” she said. “The pickles are a lot of work, but they’re worth it.

“People don’t make them anymore.”

Her collection of Red Wing crocks, which she has received as gifts over the years from her children, have helped her in the pickle-making process.

During the growing season, they double as flower pots. They range in size from 1 to 30 gallons.

One crock she has is more than 100 years old, and is a family heirloom.

Twait said she never learned to cook small batches of anything, and she said if a recipe is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

“I don’t do shortcuts,” she said. “I use all of my old (tried and true) recipes.

“I use only real butter and fresh eggs for my recipes.”

Twait has three children and two grandchildren.

Arlene’s popcorn balls

3/4 cup white sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup dark corn syrup

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon vinegar

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

5-6 quarts popped corn

Combine coating ingredients and boil to soft stage, stirring constantly. Add soda immediately.

Let rise a moment, then pour over popped corn. Stir quickly to coat popcorn and form into large balls.


1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter

1 egg

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3 cups flour

Salt to taste

Cream sugar and butter. Add egg, then add milk alternately with remaining dry ingredients. Chill.

Take small pieces of dough and roll into long strips, forming into a figure 8. Bake at 450 degrees for 5 to 8 minutes.

Chocolate chip cookies

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup shortening

1 egg

1/2 cup sweet milk

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons hot water

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup cocoa

Cream sugar and shortening. Add egg and beat. Add milk and beat.

Dissolve soda in hot water. Add soda/water mixture, vanilla, flour and cocoa, and beat.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

Frost with powdered sugar frosting and top with half of a nutmeat and walnut if desired.

Rhubarb cobbler


6 cups diced rhubarb

2 cups granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 tablespoons tapioca

2 tablespoons butter

Top crust

1 1/4 cups sifted flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup shortening

1/3 cup milk

Butter 9-by-13-inch pan generously.

Combine rhubarb with sugar, cinnamon and tapioca, place into pan and dot with butter.

Sift dry ingredients, cut in shortening until coarse crumbs.

Stir in milk. Turn out onto floured board, knead and roll to fit pan, placing on top of rhubarb filling.

Make two slits in the crust. Sprinkle with sugar and bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes until done.

Chocolate star cookies

1 3/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 egg

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 bag chocolate star candies

Sift flour, soda and salt together. Cream shortening and sugars.

Add remaining ingredients to creamed mixture, then add sifted dry ingredients to form dough.

Shape into balls, roll in sugar and bake 8 minutes at 350 degrees.

Remove from oven and press chocolate star candies into cookies until the baked cookie cracks.

Then bake an additional 5 minutes.

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