In a large metal saucepan, mix 1 gallon whole milk (High Lawn, available at Whole Foods, Donelan’s, etc., or other milk that’s not “ultra-pasteurized”) with 1 c. white vinegar (or for a different taste, lemon juice or apple cider). Place over a low to medium flame, and slowly raise temperature (you don’t want it to boil, ever).
Ben’s tools included a candy thermometer, a large strainer (he had a good-sized Chinoise), a pot to let the whey drain into, a doubled square (~24-30”) of cheesecloth, a spatula and a ladle. Monitor carefully as it heats; use a spatula to stir and lift solids from the bottom of the pan as they form. When the milk reaches 140 degrees, turn down the heat and let the temperature rise slowly; at 170-175 degrees take it off the heat and stir (warning: at 180 degrees, it becomes drier and coarser, and loses its moistness). Line the strainer with the cheesecloth, ladle the solids onto the cloth, and let the ball drain until the whey stops dripping.
Remove to a refrigerator container and add salt, lemon zest, scallion, perhaps chopped tomatoes – whatever strikes you (he also recommended trying pumpkin, honey, apple, sage, basil, etc.) For a dessert such as cannoli, use sugar and vanilla. Consume within 3 days for best flavor. As a commercial alternative, he recommended “hand-packed” ricotta from Calabro, available by request from the Cheese Shop (or ask your favorite cheese purveyor).
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