Snack Attack: Ava’s Caramel Popcorn

These salty, sweet kernels, made in Arlington, are a nostalgic, crowd-pleasing treat.

Ava's Caramel Popcorn sea salt caramel / extra dark chocolate

Ava’s Caramel Popcorn sea salt caramel / extra dark chocolate / Photos by Callaway Photo provided

For an easy, crowd-pleasing holiday gift that’s handmade, but also a little nostalgic: Here’s a local, artisan producer of caramel popcorns. Remember the colorful, metal tub your grandmother had every year around the holidays? This is way better.

Ava Vatsky launched her business in Arlington last fall with a signature sea salt caramel flavor, and other offerings like firebrand, with ancho chili and cayenne; extra dark chocolate, and more. Each flavor starts with rich cultured butter, cane sugar, and sea salt from Gloucester. This season, she debuted her current favorite, hot chocolate, with Taza Chocolate and a blend of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and ginger.

“Homemade caramel popcorn is an entirely different beast from mass-produced commercial caramel popcorn,” Vatsky says. “You can make it in very small batches with the very best ingredients, which gives you the very best flavor and the freshest possible product. You can also be far more creative with the flavors.”

The popcorn professional grew up eating caramel corn, thanks to her Midwestern grandparents. A sweet tooth and the motivation of a maker led her to the restaurant industry, where she’s been a personal chef, managed Danish Pastry House in Watertown, and apprenticed with EHChocolatier in Somerville.

In Arlington, Vatsky uses a vintage, hand-cranked popper to make each small batch fresh. The crispy kernels are tossed in her scratch-made caramel sauce, and whatever nuts or chocolate they are destined to deliver.

Ava’s Caramel Popcorn popped up at area farmers’ markets in 2016, and her packages can currently be found at local shops including Cabot’s Candy, Arlington Centered, Davis Squared, and more. This Thursday, December 22, Vatsky is headed for the Urban Grape in the South End to sample and sell her popcorn.

Got a popcorn fan on your list? Ava’s Caramel Popcorn offers a subscription that provides five Ava’s flavors per month, including an exclusive, from January-March—truly a gift that keeps on giving.

Ava’s Caramel Popcorn at Urban Grape’s 12 Days of Tastings, Thursday, December 22, 5-8 p.m., 303 Columbus Ave., South End, Boston, ​Ava’s Caramel Popcorn: 617-775-1242​,

Ava's Caramel Popcorn hot chocolate flavor. / Photo provided

Ava’s Caramel Popcorn hot chocolate flavor. / Photo by Callaway Photo provided