Place all the fruits in a large mixing bowl with the beer and rum or brandy. Cover and leave to soak overnight.
Next day, stir in the rest of the ingredients, stirring well to combine. Cover and leave to stand for a few hours or overnight.
Grease a 1.2 litre |2 pint pudding basin. Spoon the mixutre into the basin (leaving room for the pudding to rise) and smooth the top. Cover with a lid or a double thickness of pleated greaseproof paper, then with a double thickness of pleated foil. Tie securely and place in a large pan and pour in boiling water to come halfway up the basin.
Cover and cook for 6 hours, topping up with boiling water as needed. Cool completely, then wrap in fresh greaseproof paper and foil. Store in a cool, dark place until needed. The pudding will keep for 3 months. To reheat: steam the pudding for 2 hours.
For the topping: put all the ingredients in a pan and bring to a boil. Boil gently for 3-4 minutes until the cherries are tender. Remove the cherries from the pan and bring the liquid back to a boil. Boil for 4-6 minutes until syrupy. Place the cherries on top of the pudding and spoon over the syrup.
Tips: If you wish to place charms or coins in the pudding, wash them first and wrap them in greaseproof paper, before placing in the uncooked pudding mixture. Don’t forget to warn people they are there!