In the mid-1800s, however, the salt industry started to falter—the meatpacking industry moved from Cincinnati to Chicago, and soon after, Union troops destroyed many of the salt-works in the area during the Civil War. After the war ended, Dickinson’s company was one of only a few that rebuilt. The company survived into the 1940s, when, with more widespread refrigeration, a pendulum swing toward convenience foods, and the discovery of salt mines in places like Utah and Michigan, it was no longer profitable to boil down the brine. The company closed its doors, the wells were capped off, and there they sat, untouched.
That is, until Nancy, a chef who’s worked in kitchens all over the country, including her own, pursued her interest in salt. Knowing her family’s background and watching her pantry being taken over by salts from around the world, she started to think about the land that her family still owned. Knowing the food trends toward small-batch ingredients agreed with her, she realized her family needed to make salt again. She called her brother, Louis. “He has a real love of food,” Nancy said. “We grew up cooking a lot with our parents, and we’re a very food-oriented family.” Louis jumped right on board.