Proudly Made: Jacobsen Salt Co.
After an arduous journey across North America, the Lewis and Clark expedition arrived in Oregon and spent the winter of 1805 on the Pacific coast preparing for the long trip home. Running low on salt, the explorers set up a salt works, boiling seawater each day for nearly two months. Two centuries later, Jacobsen Salt Co. revived the salt-making tradition in Netarts Bay, Oregon, marking the first salt harvest in the Pacific Northwest since Lewis and Clark's long-ago visit.
“Salts come from all over the world, and I was curious about making salt in America,” founder Ben Jacobsen told us. “I tested more than 25 locations from southern Oregon to northern Washington before settling on Netarts Bay.” A great place for catching seafood, kayaking, or just taking in the scenery, the bay is somewhat undiscovered, making for an especially peaceful environment. Ben says, “The bay is an exceptionally pure, clean source for salt because 85% of its water is refreshed during each tidal change and there are very few tributaries that could carry runoff. Netarts Bay is also home to some of the world’s best oysters, which filter the water and improve its quality.”
Though Netarts Bay might seem like a salt-maker’s ideal, Ben told us that the location also brings challenges. Because of the region's climate, the bay water can get diluted by heavy rainfall, which creates a lower yield. But, he says, it’s an obstacle that can be overcome, adding that it took over two years to refine his process because “there isn’t much information about making great salt. It’s a tradition that has been overlooked for a long time, so learning was mostly trial and error.”
Jacobsen specializes in finishing salts—used to enhance a dish after cooking—with infused flavors. A favorite? Salts infused with wines from a friend’s local vineyard. Ben says, “Chefs thrive because of great ingredients like fresh vegetables, fish, etc., and salt ties everything together. There’s a renewed focus now on high-quality ingredients, and salt is a core element of almost any dish.” We can’t wait to add a dash to dinner tonight.
To celebrate the Fourth of July, we’re saluting some of our favorite American makers with Proudly Made. See all of their stories here.