The Kong Project: Day One

In MY ARTICLES, My Farming Experiences, The Kong Project by James3 Comments

Last Sunday, a group of 15 people ventured out to Hansol Farm in Namyangju, South Korea to embark on a year-long journey. The journey’s name was coined Seed to Sauce: The Kong Project. Kong is the Korean pronunciation for soy bean. The project includes taking soy beans, growing the beans into seedlings, planting the seedlings, maintaining the plants, harvesting the beans, and learning the process of turning the soy beans into soy sauce (ganjang) and paste (deonjang) the traditional Korean way through fermentation. I recently discussed the genesis of the idea in an article I wrote for Gachi CSA’s June newsletter.

The Goal and Process

For those not in the know (I wasn’t until a few weeks ago) about the different types and production methods of soy sauce there are more than a few varieties and ways to make it. As I mentioned in the Gachi article Soy sauce (ganjang) is the base of numerous Korean dishes and the base affects the flavor and experience of the meal to a great extent. Higher quality, more flavorful foundational ingredients yield more awesome tasting, nutrient dense food. Knowing this I wanted to learn how to make the most complex, flavorful, soy sauce possible. A brief overview of Korean soy sauce will reveal 17 different varieties! There is some overlap as the criteria is based on production method, aging, color, flavor, use, ingredients, and names. There are five production methods that include: Yangjo soy sauce which ingredients include soy beans, defatted soybeans and wheat, and is brewed with koji (a bacteria), Sanbunhae soy sauce which is acid-hydrolyzed soy protein and carbohydrate sauce (speedy process, most common, and least healthful/flavorful), Honhab soy sauce which is a combination of Yangjo and Sanbunhae, Hyosobunhae soy sauce which is an enzyme-hydrolyzed soy protein and carbohydrate sauce, and finally there is Hansik soy sauce, a sauce that has the main ingredient of meju (boiled, molded, and fermented soy beans) which is brined and fermented. The Kong Project will be making Hansik soy sauce which yields the most complex flavors and greatest health benefits. Within the Hansik production method there are six classifications which include: Chosun soy sauce, a sauce made the traditional way using brined meju in ceramic pots (we’ll be making this kind), Jib soy sauce, which refers to homemade soy sauce made by hand (this name is interchangable with Chosun soy sauce), Jaelaesig soy sauce, which is just another name for Chosun or Jib soy sauce, Chung-jang soy sauce, which is a light-colored Chosun sauce aged 1-2 years, Joong soy sauce, which is a Chosun sauce aged 3-4 years, and Jin Soy Sauce, which is a dark-colored Chosun soy sauce that has been aged more than 5 years. If you’ve followed this breakdown up to this sentence and have mentally grasped everything pat yourself on the back. Basically we’re making soy sauce the traditional way and depending on how long we choose to ferment it the flavors and complexity will change. The longer the fermentation the more deep and complex the flavors become.

Boiling Soy Beans

Molding Meju

Meju

Fermentation Pots

Fermentation Pots

 

 

 

 

 

 

What We Did (The Task)

Our primary job for the day was to plant the soy seedlings into the ground. Kim Byung Soo the head farmer at Hansol Farm (the home of the Kong Project) had started the seedlings for us 3 weeks prior to our arrival. After a slow start (one week delay) the plants were ready for transfer. Farmer Kim showed us where we should plant them and the technique for digging and planting. He left us to it and immediately the group went to work. The way the members took initiative and delegated roles was a pleasant sight. Everyone quickly was at work and working as a cohesive unit, something I had hoped would happen considering the length of the project. Even the young children lent a hand for a bit until the pull of play took them away – play for children is serious learning and the work of childhood – and with that the harmony of work was humming throughout the farm child to adult alike. At one point I took a break and found a goat getting his hooves trimmed by two volunteer traveling WWOOFers from Denmark. They offered me a free trim, but I hadn’t the time. After three hours of hard work we were on the home stretch, and it was time for our lunch break. The Gachi CSA staff had put together a nice lunch for us that included pasta, salad, and homemade bread. Byung Soo had also slow cooked several two-year old roosters the night before which made for some fantastic tasting pulled chicken. After lunch we returned to our task and finished planting the seedlings. We accomplished the first step of our project with no hitches. Everyone worked hard and had fantastic attitudes. It was a great start.

Alexa Helping Me

Getting Things Done

Kid Work

Father and Son

Our Plants

Our Plants

Byung Soo & the Plants

Byung Soo & the Plants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Thoughts of a Wannabe Farmer

I’m very happy with the start of this project. The people who signed up for the project turned out to be self starters and showed great enthusiasm. In addition, the group is quite diverse in background and age making a nice dynamic and opportunity for us all to learn from one another. For me this project has turned into dual opportunities. Initially I just wanted to learn to make traditional soy sauce starting from the seed – seed to sauce. But as I pursued this skill a new opportunity to lead and coordinate was presented, something I was not searching for, but something that is on my self development list. The big take away so far is an old one, but worth repeating because what the project has become is a textbook example of it. The takeaway is nothing happens unless you take action. The simple action I took was sending an email about an idea. It is certainly true that the past two and a half years I’ve spent gaining farming experience, knowledge, and connections had a large influence on me getting the opportunity to lead, but still I would have never had the chance if I had not asked. Do the work, prepare yourself accordingly, and opportunity will be there if you seek it out. We will return to the farm late next month for weeding and leaf trimming. Now our task is to see our crop through the hot and wet summer months. Nothing is guaranteed in farming, but here’s to hoping our plants survive and thrive into the fall and produce abundantly. I’ll keep you updated. Thanks for reading.

Farm Fresh Lunch

Farm Fresh Lunch

Break Time

Break Time

Lucas: Farmer in Training

Comments

  1. Addye

    Loved this article and the pictures!! It truly is in the doing — the journey of the moment that can bring you joy. Thank you for sharing with all of us !!! Keep on going !!!

  2. Pingback: The Kong Project – Day Two | I Wanna Farm

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