Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 78

ABOVE: Descendants of J.Q Dickinson's founder, William Dickinson,
gather on the farm near the salt works for a family dinner.
LOWER LEFT: Workers posed for a photo outside the salt works in 1940.
ABOVE LEFT: An early-20th century advertisement for Kanawha Salt,
marketing its superiority for salting pork.

had been carried to the surface by way
of brine and 350-foot deep wells. More
importantly, it derived from an extinct
420-million-year-old ocean that predated
the Atlantic. The final straw was discovering "The Great Kanawha Salt" had been
named "The Best Salt in The World" at
the 1851 World's Fair in London.
In 2012, Bruns phoned her brother,
Lewis Payne, and had him look into the
possibility of revitalizing the old wells.
When investigations showed they could
still produce high-quality brine, Bruns
promptly relocated to West Virginia.
Within a few months, she'd partnered
with Payne and leased the former J.Q.
Dickinson site from a cousin. Together,
the two began the process of resuscitating
the family's 200-year-old business.
"It felt like I was on some kind of cosmic treasure hunt," says Bruns. "On one
hand, what I was doing seemed completely crazy. On the other, I had this surreal
feeling that, if we just put in the work and
kept following the signs, we'd arrive at
something amazing."

78

BLUERIDGECOUNTRY.COM

Installing five hoop-houses for solar
evaporation, Bruns and Payne drilled
their first well in the spring of 2013. Within a year, Bruns's dream of tasting "The
Great Kanawha Valley Salt" had come
true-and she was not disappointed.
"It had a bold clean flavor with a finish that was almost slightly sweet," she
says. "It was very pleasant on the palate
and unlike any other salt I'd ever tasted. I
knew right away it was special."
Analyzing the salt's minerality, she discovered why. Unlike Morton salts, which
are mined, purified, and feature anti-caking agents, Kanawha salt was au naturel.
Ferried from stone aquifers to evaporating
trays by way of brine, it was completely
unsullied by humans. Its mineral content
was both pristine and utterly unique.
"You can literally taste the minerality
from millennia of stone erosion," says
two-time James Beard Foundation Best
Chef in America semi-finalist Ian Boden.
In his celebrated Staunton, Virginia, restaurant, The Shack, Boden uses J.Q. Dickinson salts exclusively. "That elevates it

above other sea salts I've tasted and probably makes it the oldest regional tasteproduct in the world."
As the quote implies, the salt was an
immediate hit. Despite months of preparation and production, Bruns and Payne sold
their entire inventory within three weeks.
Today, the company hand-harvests
around 6,000 pounds of salt a year and
has wholesale accounts with more than
120 chefs and specialty food shops
throughout the U.S. For farm-to-table
connoisseurs like Boden, J.Q. Dickinson
salt is worth the $25 a pound price-tag
and imbues dishes with an extra something special.
"It's been a privilege to have the product be so well received and witness this
aspect of Appalachian history come back
to life," says Bruns. "If you'd run into me
15 years ago and said, 'One day, you'll become the last salt-maker in Appalachia,'
I would have thought you were insane.
Now, not only am I proud to be carrying
on my family's legacy, I hope to preserve
it for many generations to come."


http://www.BLUERIDGECOUNTRY.COM

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018

Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - Intro
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - Cover1
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - Cover2
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 3
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 4
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 5
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 6
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 7
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 8
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 9
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 10
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 11
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 12
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 13
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Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 17
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 18
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 19
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 20
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 21
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 22
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 23
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Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 25
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 26
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 27
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 28
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 29
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 30
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 31
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 32
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 33
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 34
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 35
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 36
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 37
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Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 63
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Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 65
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - 66
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Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - Cover3
Blue Ridge Country - July/August 2018 - Cover4
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