A group of expat farmers will try their hand at making traditional Korean condiments from the very basics, going from seedlings to sauce, in a new yearlong project to start May 31.
The Kong Project, run by Gachi CSA, a community-supported agriculture organization that caters to expats here, will involve monthly gatherings at a farm in Namyangju, Gyeonggi Province, where participants will grow beans and turn them into sauce.
The project will be run by Gachi CSA chief Kim Byung-soo, the owner of the farm, which also hosts events for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, an international farm volunteering organization.
He was contacted by WWOOF volunteer James Thole, who wanted to make soy sauce but couldn’t find a nearby place to do it.
“I’m really into farming and the idea of learning how to do this was always something I wanted to do, and I have tried to look at different places. There were some WWOOF posts that do it but they were kind of far south,” he said.
He said his interest in making the sauce came from his interest in Korean cuisine, and especially after tasting homemade doenjang, soy bean paste, at a farm in Namyangju.
“They all tasted wonderful,” he said. “They all tasted nothing like anything I’ve had at a Korean restaurant. And I like doenjang anyway, but this was a different experience.”
Soy sauce and doenjang are by-products of each other during the fermenting process.
During the project, the participants will plant seedlings and look after them until harvest in October. Then they will boil the beans, grind them and pack them into square molds. These produce blocks called “meju” that are tied up with straw rope and hung for two to three months to ferment and dry.
The next step is to put the blocks in large earthenware pots and submerge them in brine. Thole said a weak sauce could be gathered after about 30 days, although it was normal to leave it for longer ― often years.
At the end of the project, the organizers expect each person to leave with about 300 grams of soy sauce, 300-500 grams of gochujang chilli paste and about 1 kilogram of doenjang.
Some everyday tasks such as weeding will be done partly by farm staff, but Thole said the participants would carry out all the key stages of growing and processing.
He also hopes to do some other activities on and around the farm, including visiting some experts in soy sauce making.
“There’s some master ganjang (soy sauce) brewers in Namyangju around that farm and one of the things I want to do with the group is go visit these masters,” he said.
Gachi CSA provides boxes of organic food to subscribers direct from farmers on a weekly basis.
Participation in the Kong Project costs 100,000 won for Gachi CSA subscribers and 120,000 won for nonmembers. To sign up, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Deadline is May 27.
By Paul Kerry (Paulkerry@heraldcorp.com)