Jacobsen Salt’s Ben Jacobsen on the Power of Great Salt

We caught up with the master saltmaker at Feast Portland
Ben Jacobsen

John Valls

Ben Jacobsen is the first person to harvest salt off the Oregon Coast since Lewis and Clark.

Ben Jacobsen is the Founder of Jacobsen Salt Co. He has only one mission in life: to be the salt that’s on America’s kitchen tables. “The U.S. doesn’t have a great finishing salt to call their own,” he told us. “Salt is the most cost-effective way to elevate every bite of food. A $40.00 bottle of wine will last you a couple of hours. But a $14.00 package of salt will last you a couple of months.”

Jacobsen Salt Co. is only five years old, but it has been in the making for much, much longer. Jacobsen was living in Scandinavia when he became enamored of salt. “My girlfriend at the time brought home a package of good salt and that's when it changed,” Jacobsen explained. 

When he moved back to Oregon from Scandinavia, Jacobsen was amazed at how the region had evolved as a culinary capital. “It was all about where the food came from and how good the ingredients were.”

That’s why Jacobsen started trying to make salt, and it initially didn’t go very well. “It’s very easy to make bad salt,” he added. The trial-and-error period lasted about two years, with one whole year spent testing out twenty-five different spots all along the Oregon coast to find the just the right one from which to source the water.

Once he found the spot (in Netarts Bay), he perfected the process, which takes about 150 hours, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history. Delicious history in this case. “Clean, beautiful, briny salt with a bright salinity, a clean bright taste, a delicate flake, and a translucent - not chalky white – appearance, and no bitterness,” is how he describes his salt. The trick is removing the calcium. “The salt would be bitter, astringent, and chalky if we didn't take out calcium,” he added.  

Jacobsen is the first to harvest salt off the Oregon Coast since Lewis and Clark, a lovely nod to Oregon’s rich and bountiful agricultural and culinary history.

In many ways, salt is the epitome of going back to basics. “We don't have time to do a lot of cooking,” he said. “So the cooking we do is simple. Using great salt is a great way to bring everyday luxury to simple food.”

Related Links
10 Ways You’re Misusing SaltA Chat with Three Chefs at Feast PortlandFeast Portland: Celebrating Great Food and Local ArtisansFeast Portland: Tillamook Brunch Village7 Portland Chefs Not to Miss at Feast Portland