The Kong Project: Making Meju

In MY ARTICLES, My Farming Experiences, The Kong Project by James2 Comments

The last Sunday of November was a big day for Kong Project members – it was meju making day. Learning to make meju is one of the most important steps in learning how to make home-made hand crafted fermented soy sauce and soy bean paste. Meju is the heart of the entire operation.  Meju is basically the end product of soaked, boiled, and mashed soy beans.  The dried soy beans should be soaked overnight. The next day they’re boiled for 6-8 hours or until very soft. They should give way easily when pressed between your fingers. After they’re boiled the mashing and smashing begins. It doesn’t really matter how you do it, the goal is just to mash all the beans into one consistent clay-like blob. As you’ll notice in the pictures below we used a wooden tool, our hands, and we also put them into a bag and stepped on them.  After the consistency is right you’re going to want to shape them into large bricks. It’s important to press them tightly, not leaving any cracks or holes within the block. Once they are shaped the next step is to inoculate them with some local straw and cool. The blocks should be laid on a bed of straw where they will cool and become inoculated by bacteria on the straw. They should also be placed in a temperature controlled room. The temperature should be set at 25-30 degrees celsius. If the room is not warm enough the bacteria will not grow. Once the meju has dried and been inoculated you can hang them with the same straw. From that point the bacteria will start to do its magic and slowly work its way to the center of the meju block in search of moisture. This is the fermentation process. If all goes well, and the good bacteria wins, the meju block will be ready after about 2 months. At that point the meju block will be placed in a clay jar that is filled with a salt brine. The jar will sit for another 3 months further fermenting and after 90 days you’ll be able to sample some young soy sauce. Most producers will continue the fermentation process for 1 to 5 years and even longer. The longer it ferments, the more complex the flavor. Kong Project members joined ByungSoo’s mother in law at her home to learn the meju making process. She was a very gracious host and excellent teacher. The beans we worked with that day were not the beans from our harvest. We took home our shares from the harvest and made our own batches at home. I met with members and delivered the Kong Project meju batches to the fermenting room the next weekend. The first batch we made was looking good and drying well as you can see in the last pictures. We’ll all meet again in two months to put our meju into the salt brine. So far the project has been a great success, now we enter the critical stage where things can go wrong, so here’s to hoping our meju ferments properly and is ready for the next step in February.

 

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Straining the beans

Getting read to mash the beans

Getting read to mash the beans

Placing beans in bag to mash

Placing beans in bag to mash

bean mashing and feet warming

bean mashing and feet warming

dad and daughter making meju

dad and daughter making meju

Molding the meju

Molding the meju

Make sure it's compact

Make sure it’s compact

perfect meju brick

perfect meju brick

children love meju

children love meju

Thanks Grandma!

Thanks Grandma!

taking meju to the meju room

taking meju to the meju room

ByungSoo lying the meju on the straw

ByungSoo lying the meju on the straw

homemade meju on way to the farm

homemade meju on way to the farm

Meju after one week in the meju room

Meju after one week in the meju room

New meju meets old meju

New meju meets old meju

 

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  1. Pingback: The Kong Project : Making The Brine | I Wanna Farm

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