In the history of mankind the development of agriculture has long been anointed as the trigger that started man’s ascendancy from our Neolithic hunter/gathering past to our modern dentistry/Netflix/electronic shifting groups/easy-chair present. While agriculture played a significant role in our socio-cultural evolution there is another fundamental contributor whose role cannot be overlooked and that is salt. Salt is a critical component to the health and function of our bodies and evidence of salt cultivation exists as far back as 6000 years BC. While salt has been a supplementary part of our diet since ancient times there has been a noticeable lack of producers who have taken a studied and systematic approach to salt production.
Enter Ben Jacobsen, a former collegiate criterium national champion and web-based entrepreneur. Ben was a formidable racer in college and after taking home a stars-and-stripes jersey he decided to leave his cycling career behind and move on to some opportunities on the web. After that ran its course, Ben spent the mid-2000s traveling through northern Europe, specifically Norway and Denmark, experiencing the lifestyle, seeing sites, and sampling the cuisine and one thing that stuck out was the salt. The US had nothing like the big flaky tactile salt that you could find in the restaurants of Oslo and Copenhagen. The salt in these meals wasn’t just about flavor but the texture as well and it was this texture that added another level of experience to his meals.
After his travels Ben returned to the US on a mission to make salt and after searching and testing the water at 30 different locations from Gold Beach, Oregon up the coast to Port Angeles, Washington he settled on Netarts Bay, Oregon and in 2011 Jacobsen Salt Co. was founded. Netarts Bay has a lot going for it if you want to make high quality salt. It is a protected estuary with very little runoff and a high salinity. It is also home to one of the world’s best oyster beds and an individual oyster will filter 50 gallons of water a day. Combine all these factors and Ben wagers that this is the best quality ocean water on the West Coast.
Through a proprietary production process, Jacobsen Salt Co. has quickly established itself as America’s top producer of high quality salt and he utilizes a combination of traditional methods and modern ingenuity to create his salt. The first step is to pump water in from the ocean, then flush it through gravity fed sand filters to be stored in huge cisterns. From there it is put through a boiling process during which water and calcium is removed to create the right finish as excess calcium can make salt overly bitter. The salt is then put into draining pans and is finished in a dehydration room. This process creates big, beautiful, and tasty salt crystals and though it may appear simplistic, the timing and mixture at each step of the process has been carefully honed and needs to be precisely managed in order to create salt that lives up to Ben’s rigorous standards. This process is run 24 hours a day 7 days a week and despite this monumental effort Jacobsen Salt is constantly backordered. Ben hopes to add another 10 plus employees by the end of the year and he is going to need all the help he can get as he has a number of new projects and collaborations in the works set to launch this fall and early next year that are surely going to be in high demand.
Ben will be hanging around at this year’s Portland Gourmet Century and our chefs will be using Jacobsen Salt throughout the day’s meals. When you have a chance pop over to the Jacobsen Salt Co.website and learn how you can add a little quality salt to your life.
Want to host your own Gourmet Century event? Have it at the Chris King café in Portland Oregon or have us come to you with our new field support program. Learn more at www.gourmetcentury.com/eventspace.