Interview with Brenda Potter, Sugar Maker of Potter Family Maple – Cow on a Cliff, Vermont Food Chronicles(c) 2015


     Vermont Pure Maple Syrup stands as a deliciously tantalizing icon of the Sugar Making culture of Vermont.  Families and individuals spend their lives dedicated to Sugaring, via family and individually operated Sugar Houses.  They provide some of the most nutrient rich sugar available to Americans.  Sugar, to the average American, is viewed as a major industrial food factory product, but not here in Vermont.  Maple syrup in Vermont is Buy Local from and Vermont Pure.  Vermont Pure Maple Syrup is the primary sugar in countless Vermont households and part of everyday life.  Many Vermonters use maple sugar and maple syrup instead of white sugar; it is used daily  in coffee, cereal, frostings, cakes, beverages and in any food that one puts sugar on.  Maple syrup is naturally gluten free and is almost always processed in facilities which do not process wheat.

According to lifelong Sugar Maker and Vermonter, Brenda Potter (of Potter Family Maple in Bakersfield, Vermont) states the leading characteristic of Vermont Pure Maple Syrup is its flavor.  The nutrients in Vermont soil contribute to a bolder maple syrup flavor which cannot be obtained anywhere else.  Maple syrup flavor is affected by soil type, tree genetics and weather conditions during the Maple Sugaring Season. Maple Season is the time when the sap is collected and processed.


     Vermont Maple Sugaring culture also bears its own language.  Sugar Makers in Vermont boil sap in their Sugar Houses (other parts of the country call the boiling facility a Sugar Shack and other terms).




Vermont Maple growers and Sugar Makers relate to Maple all year, constantly prepping the sugaring operation for the upcoming season.  During season and off season, each day revolves around Maple.  During season, all the sap which has come from the day must be processed and then boiled.



The sap comes from lines (tubing) that run the sap for miles from tree tap into the system which connects to the Sugar House.


The woods and lines are in need of constant attention:  trimming trees, making sure lines are clear and hanging, looking for felled branches, trees and lines are all a daily process.  The end of season brings the un-tapping of trees, cleaning of equipment, more line checking and thorough protection of equipment in anticipation of next year’s harvest.  Brenda said she and her husband, Dean Potter, spend time all year in preparation for the upcoming Sugaring season.  The 2015 Sugar Season saw 10 months of preparation for one month and four days of sugaring and produced an ideal sweet for this year’s Potter Family Maple Vermont Pure Maple Syrup.

     Potter Family Maple has 1800 Maple trees on 54 acres in one location, and an additional 600 trees in another.  They are currently expanding to 3000 taps on the 54 acre parcel.  This year they added 200 taps on a new line and used 5000 feet of blue tubing to accomplish the expansion. The line hangs on a wire system which is run through the woods and the rest ties  into the mainline tubing and ultimately into the system to be ready for boiling.


Brenda says a Sugar Maker must be ready for whenever “Mother Nature decides it’s time for the sap to flow.”  Temperature is pinnacle and provides a small period of time for sap collection.  The days need to be just slightly above freezing: 38 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny, after consistent frozen hard 25 degree nights.  The sun warms the morning air quickly after freezing temperatures at night, this is what triggers the sap to pour. Once it gets to 60 degrees Fahrenheit and the trees start to bud, sap production shrinks drastically.  Spring time temperature of 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit with a freeze every night for 3-4 weeks is the formula. Any day above freezing during that weather time period will inspire the sap to run.

Sap has a sweet content to it; this year’s sap in Franklin County Vermont ran at around a 2% “sweetness”, which Brenda states is ideal.  This year it took approximately 43 gallons of sap to yield 1 gallon of Vermont Pure Maple Syrup.  Every year is different as the sugar release and its content has to do with weather conditions.  Once the sap flows and is collected it is boiled down to create syrup. Maple Syrup Manufacturing techniques vary by Sugar Maker, as does the equipment. Equipment will vary the amount of time to boil and total syrup yield.


Reverse Osmosis Equipment extracts water out of sap mechanically. Using reverse osmosis yielded a 10% sweetness for the 2015 Sugaring Season and made 20 gallons per hour.  Sugar Makers who do not rely on this equipment yield about 3 gallons per hour.  Every Sugar Maker has their own sweetness level they are looking to achieve; this is part of the variation in boldness flavor of small sugar making of Vermont Pure Maple Syrup.

 Storing Vermont Pure Maple Syrup: once the seal is broken it needs to be refrigerated.  Brenda says it will keep for years in fridge, but it must be kept cold. Even if it solidifies (crystalizes), just heat it up in the microwave for 30 seconds.  Just like honey or any other natural sugar, it melts easily.



     Potter Family Maple is a member of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association and are participate in VMSMAs Annual Open House Events during the 2015 Sugar Season. Potter Family Maple Vermont Pure Maple Syrup and Maple Candy can be purchased online at their Ebay Store, “vtmaple”, and at the Echo Lake Aquarium and Science Center in Burlington, VT.  Please visit them online 

“Interview with Brenda Potter of Potter Family Maple” by Liz Conforti, Cow on a Cliff – Vermont Food Chronicles(c) 2015

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