Preheat oven to 350°. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through. Cool 15 minutes.
Stir together mayonnaise and next 2 ingredients. Stir in pecans and cheese.
Spoon mixture into a plastic wrap-lined 4-cup ring mold with a 2 1/2-inch center. Cover and chill 2 hours.
Unmold cheese ring onto a serving platter. Discard plastic wrap. Fill center of ring with preserves. Serve with crackers. Garnish, if desired.
*Sharp white Cheddar cheese may be substituted.
Four Swaps for Strawberry Preserves. Serve any of these mixtures with Ashley's Cheese Ring for a new take on a classic. You can prep and chill up to four days ahead.
Mint-Pepper Jelly: Stir together 1/2 cup pepper jelly and 1 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh mint.
Basil-Blackberry Preserves: Stir together 1/2 cup blackberry preserves and 1 1/2 to 2 tsp. chopped fresh basil.
Rosemary-Pear Preserves: Stir together 1/2 cup pear preserves and 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary.
Balsamic-Strawberry Preserves: Bring 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 18 to 20 minutes or until reduced to about 2 Tbsp. Let cool 10 minutes. Stir in 1 cup strawberry preserves.
I have been making this recipe for 30 years and it is always a hit. If you are in a hurry, just use garlic powder. You can also omit the pepper sauce and sprinkle in ground red pepper or powdered chipotle. If you don't have a ring mold, just shape it in a ring with your hands. I have never used a ring mold and I have probably made it at least 50 times. As the previous reviewer mentioned, it is better to put the preserves in a dish in the center so as not to get the ring all messy. Raspberry preserves are a wonderful alternative flavor with the cheese. Although many will say foods with mayo don't freeze and thaw well, I have frozen leftovers of this cheese ring, mixed it well upon thawing, reshaped, and served with great success. No one knew the difference. Enjoy.
The catering company I used to work for made this recipe and it was a real crowd pleaser. However, I would recommend that you put your strawberry preserves in a bowl or compote dish in the middle of the cheese ring. Otherwise, you will have preserves running all over the place as guests serve themselves. This also makes a prettier presentation.
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