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Malden, WV


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Photograph courtesy of J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works

General Information

J. Q. Dickinson Salt-Works

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Recommended By

- Chef Sean Brock




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“J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works are from West Virginia and there is an amazing story behind it. They are a 7th generation salt-making family who started making salt in 1817. Their salt was chosen best in the world at the World’s Fair in London in 1851. We were one of their first customers in this area.”

- Chef Sean Brock of Husk in Charleston and Nashville

When chef Sean Brock opened his second Husk location in Nashville, TN, he expanded his search for local food artisans to support. He found salt purveyor J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works in West Virginia and fell in the love with both the salt and their history. The operation is run by Nancy Bruns and Lewis Payne.

Discover what makes their salt so unique and join Nancy as she explores her favorite eating, drinking, and shopping spots in West Virginia.

Collecting Salt

Photograph courtesy of J. Q. Dickinson Salt-Works

Q. How does your salt differ from other salts?

A. Our salt is made from an underground brine source which is a trapped ancient sea, the 400 million year old Iapetus Ocean. This source is protected from contaminants that often enter into our surface oceans. It has a slightly higher salinity than ocean water and is very rich in minerals.

We make our salt with sustainability in mind. It is solar evaporated in greenhouses, which takes time and patience. We consider it a product of Mother Nature, much like waiting for fruits or vegetables to get perfectly ripe before harvesting. The flavor of our salt comes from its source and as such, there is a definite minerality to it. It is complex in flavor, which surprises a lot of people, and a little goes a long way. It really elevates the flavors of the foods it seasons in a beautiful way.

Founders Lewis Payne & Nancy Bruns

Photograph courtesy of J. Q. Dickinson Salt-Works

Q. You are a seventh generation West Virginia salt-making family who started in 1817 - how has salt production and the salt product changed over time?

A. Our ancestors made salt very differently than we are making it. They used timber and coal to heat the brine in large furnaces. They made a lot of salt in a very short period of time. The salt they made was used by the meat packing industry in Cincinnati and Nashville as a preservative. Massive quantities were needed then. There wasn't the concern with flavor that we have now. Our salt tastes much better but it takes much longer to make. We take greater care with the process to maximize the flavor profile to be the most pleasing.

Q. What are some of the ways you recommend to get the full enjoyment of your salt?

A. When I taste our salt with people who have not had it I always start them with something simple, like a piece of tomato, cucumber, or good bread and unsalted butter. Adding just a few crystals of our salt elevates the best characteristics of the food while adding a little texture to the experience. People immediately taste the difference.

J. Q. Dickinson Salt

Photograph courtesy of J. Q. Dickinson Salt-Works

Q. Any unexpected ways to enjoy your salt?

A. I love it on everything. Right now we are getting great melons, so I always have some salt close by. It makes the melon even sweeter. Also, really good dark chocolate is a weakness of mine. I love a little sprinkle of our salt on a chunk of dark chocolate as an afternoon pick-me-up.

Ben Jacobsen collecting salt water

Photograph courtesy of Jacobsen Salt Co.

Q. Who else in the salt making business is doing an outstanding job -- and what do you like about what they are doing?

A. There are so many salt producers around the world making amazing salts and they are all slightly different.

Mark Bitterman, of The Meadow, in Portland and New York, is a salt expert. He talks about the merroir, similar to the terroir of wine. If a salt is made well, its natural characteristics of where it is sourced shine through. I love that about salt. I am very glad that we are getting more and more producers in this country. Per capita we are way behind the rest of the world.

I think Ben Jacobsen is doing a great job in Oregon and I love Alaska Pure Salt Company's product. It is beautiful and really flavorful. The Japanese do amazing things with salt and the varied ways to produce it, such as evaporating sea water on bamboo. They get very intricate.


Find | Produce

Produce from Fish Hawk Acres

Photograph courtesy of Fish Hawk Acres

Fish Hawk Acres

Dale Hawkins is doing great things with local agriculture and promoting the independent producer. He organized a cooperative CSA that includes his farm as well as others in his area. He caters and holds farm dinners on his property to promote the use of local ingredients. He is a great asset to the state and one of the founders of The Cast Iron Cook-Off, which highlights West Virginia ingredients.

88 Rock Cave Road, Rock Cave, WV 26234

T: 304.924.9880 | www.wvfishhawkacres.com

Find | Markets

Vegetables and fruit at Capitol Market

Photograph courtesy of Capitol Market

Capitol Market

I avoid large grocery stores if I can and I really like shopping here. It’s an indoor/outdoor marketplace with lots of different vendors. You can get local produce, meats, seafood, wines, cheeses, and pantry staples all in one place from independent producers/owners. I like the sense of community here because I know I am supporting independent producers, which is important to me. You can also find Ellen’s Ice Cream’s here in the summer -- she sells from a cart.

800 Smith Street, Charleston, WV 25301

T: 304.558.0185 | www.capitolmarket.net

Berries and tomatoes from The Wild Ramp

Photograph courtesy of The Wild Ramp

The Wild Ramp

When I go to Huntington, I always shop here. It’s a co-op where local producers sell their products. They sell everything from local cheese and butter, to vegetables, free range chickens, eggs, soap, honey, and of course salt. The producers keep 90% of the sale price and the other 10% covers the infrastructure and staff. It's a great deal for everyone.

555 14th Street W, Huntington, WV 25704

T: 304.523.7267 | wildramp.org

Find | Specialty Food Stores

Bella The Corner Gourmet

It’s a great specialty food and gift store in Lewisburg. I love the size of the space because  I get overwhelmed fairly easily in stores with lots of items. The owner, Tamera, has done an excellent job with the selection and display. It is a fun place to find what you need and discover new things as well.

100 E Washington Street, Lewisburg, WV 24901

T: 304.520.4921 | www.bellathecornergourmet.com

Find | Bread

Charleston Bread Company

Owner Libby Chatfield is an amazing baker. There is nothing fancy about what she is doing, but her breads and pastries are all delicious. It is one of those bakeries that makes you feel good because of their simple approach and the high quality ingredients used.

601 Capitol Street, Charleston, WV 25301

T: 304.720.3022

Find | Ice Cream

Ellen's Ice Cream

Ice cream maker Ellen Beal is a city legend. I have to avoid her side of the street when I am downtown, otherwise I would be eating her ice cream several times a day. Every flavor is a winner, but her Espresso Oreo is my favorite.

225 Capitol Street, Charleston, WV 25301

T: 304.343.6488 | ellensicecream.com

Eat | Restaurants

Chicken Fried Duck & Waffles + Watermelon Margarita

Photograph courtesy of Bluegrass Kitchen

Bluegrass Kitchen

Their food is very creative. Owner Keeley Steele smokes our salt and uses it to season different dishes. She also makes an excellent margarita with a smoked salt rim that people are still talking about.

1600 Washington Street E, Charleston, WV 25311

T: 304.346.2871 | www.bluegrasswv.com

Noah's Eclectic Bistro

We make a small amount of what we call “cooking salt” and it is a much finer grain salt. We only sell it to four chefs and Noah Miller is one of them. He only uses our salt to season his food. His menu changes weekly and I always enjoy tasting his new creations. Everything is so fresh. He always does an excellent job with fish.

110 Mcfarland Street, Charleston, WV 25301

T: 304.343.6558 | noahseclectic.com

The Secret Sandwich Society

Photograph courtesy of The Secret Sandwich Society

The Secret Sandwich Society

They make unbelievable sandwiches. They sell our salt like a condiment to enhance your meal. For a small price, you get a little dish of our salt to season your own food. 

I don't necessarily want the salt to be the center of attention on the plate. It should play a supporting role by enhancing the ingredients the chefs have chosen to feature. Too much salt, no matter how good, is not pleasant.

103 1/2 Keller Avenue, Fayetteville, WV 25840

T: 304.574.4777 | www.secretsandwichsociety.com

Drink | Coffee

Cappuccino at Moxxee Coffee

Photograph courtesy of Moxxee Coffee

Moxxee Coffee

It’s a great little coffee bar with excellent coffee. They are all about the coffee, not the added flavors, if you know what I mean.

301 Morris Street, Charleston, WV 25301

T: 304.344.8810 | moxxeecoffee.com