Lightly toast the pecans in the oven at 350 degrees or in a dry skillet over medium heat. Let cool. Set aside 2 tablespoons of pecans for garnish.
Grate the cheese with a box grater or food processor. Finely grate the onion.
Put all ingredients (except strawberry preserves) in a medium mixing bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined.
Turn the mixture out onto a board or serving plate. Using your hands, shape into a ring. Place preserves in the center of the ring. Sprinkle with the reserved pecans.
Serve with assorted crackers.May be made ahead and refrigerated. Keeps well for a few days in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Use sharp or extra sharp Cheddar according to your preference. And be sure to grate it yourself. Don't purchase the shredded cheese in the bag.
Use regular mayonnaise, not low fat.
Use your own homemade strawberry preserves or a quality brand of purchased preserves.
An alternative for toasting pecans is to place them in a small baking pan and cook at 350 degrees for 4 to 5 minutes. When you start to smell them, you know they're done!
I can't stress enough that you should not use the packaged shredded cheese in this recipe. It just won't work. The coating on the packaged cheese that keeps it from sticking together will keep your cheese ring from sticking together, too. You simply must have freshly grated cheese.
Repurpose leftovers into a sauce for steamed vegetables. Toss the leftovers, minus the preserves, into a saucepan and melt over low heat. Drizzle over steamed broccoli, carrots, or cauliflower.
To make sure the cheese ring is firm, be sure to refrigerate for several hours before serving. Serve at room temperature.
Because of the unique flavor profile of this recipe, I really don't recommend making many substitutions. It's a proven, traditional recipe that's meant to be enjoyed in its original form.
Serving: Serve the cheese ring with assorted mildly flavored crackers. I always serve Pepperidge Farm Toasted Sesame crackers with this cheese ring. You could also offer pretzels or pretzel crisps, bagel or pita chips, or even old-fashioned Captain's wafers.Storage and Make Ahead Information: The cheese ring may be made ahead and refrigerated but be sure to bring it to room temperature for serving. Leftovers also keep well for a few days in the refrigerator. Freezing is not recommended.