The Kong Project : Making The Brine

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

In early June, 2015, The Kong Project began. This past Saturday, February 13th, we entered the final stage of turning seed into sauce. Last time we met was to make the meju. This time we’d be learning to make the brine that the meju will be soaking and fermenting in for the next several months until ganjang (soy sauce) and deonjang (soy paste) have been created.  A friend of the family came over to help teach us the process.

1. We used a tradition Korean clay fermenting pot called an onngi which was about 12 liters – a good size for two meju bricks.
2. First to kill any bad germs inside the pot we filled it with some straw and burned it, then cleaned out the soot with a cloth.
3. The next item we needed was some quality sea salt.
4. Our teacher mixed the salt a big tub or plastic bowl. She told us you’ll know you have the right consistency of salt water when an egg floats, and the surface area above water (of the egg) is about the same as a 500 won coin.
5. After we got the water right we placed the meju into the pot.
6. We poured the salt brine through a strainer – leaving the excess mound of salt in the bowl.
7. The meju floated to the top and we added three pieces of fresh oak charcoal and three dried red Korean peppers. The charcoal acts as a purifier and the peppers add some flavor to the brine. After adding the charcoal and peppers you’re pretty much done.
8. You should cover it with a solid top and don’t remove for three days.
9. After three days you can remove the solid top and put a thin cloth over the top and top the cloth with a glass cover. This will allow a certain amount of sunlight to penetrate.
10. The final step is to leave it in direct sunlight and about three months later you’ll be able to separate the liquid which will be a young soy sauce and the meju blocks will be deonjang. For best results it’s recommended to wait a year or more.

This was the final meeting that my wife Anna and I would be able to attend as we’re moving to the U.S. to pursue our dream of being full time farmers.  I want to thank farmer Kim Byung Soo from Hansol Farm who made this project possible. I remember pitching the idea to him almost a year ago unsure of how he would react and to my pleasant surprise he immediately accepted the idea and showed great support.  He gave us land to farm on, gathered the supplies, taught us how to plant and maintain our crop, and when he didn’t know a step in the process found us a teacher who did.  I hope one day I can give back to young people interested in getting their hands dirty the way Byung Soo has over the years. Thank you Kim Byung Soo!

I’d also like to thank the Kong Project members. A variety of people with different backgrounds and ages joined us. Our youngest member was one and a half years old! Everyone who participated had a wonderful attitude and showed great curiosity and interest. Thank you to: The Besleme family (Kate, Orestes, Rita, Alexa, and Lucas), Jordan, Sean, Nick, Gayeong, Andrew, Lisa, Connie, Dongui, and Serena. Also a very special thanks to my wife Anna who was instrumental in making everything happen. I’ll give un update in several months when the first soy sauce is ready. I’ll also post reports from Kong Project members.  I’m grateful to have learned such a unique skill, a true artisanal skill that is slowly fading from practice.  Ultimately though as with most meaningful ventures it was about the journey – the process. That’s where the joy comes from. I have many great memories from the past year working with the Kong Project members, and although not even a spec on the scale of human accomplishment through the ages, we all now share a similar feeling of accomplishment having succeeded in meeting our goal. What a great feeling. Thank you for sharing that journey with me. Here’s to our jang and deonjang fermenting well and yielding a delicious bounty.

Our Ganjang Professor

Burn Cleaning the pot

preparing the salt water

Oak Charcoal

Its ready!

Looks like a good batch

Solid lid for first 3 days


  1. Addye Thole

    Great article!! Anna did a great job translating the Korean directions for this brine process!
    Enjoyed the video clips so we could see the process!!
    Loved your heartfelt thanks to Mr. Kim/Anna and all the folks/friends that were apart of this project. Thanks for allowing us to follow this project!! Learned alot.
    Your encouraging and informative articles spoke volumes of your passion for farming and why pursuing a dream is so worthwhile.
    So very proud of you and Anna. Feeling blessed that I was able to meet Mr. Kim and chat about the importance of the integrity of food on all scales. Very wise and kind man.
    Safe journey you two back to the states. Love, Mom

Leave a Reply