Place a medium skillet over medium heat with the oil. Once oil is hot, fry 12 sage leaves until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Add sausage in a single layer & fry until browned on each side. Drain on paper towels, reserving remaining oil in skillet.
Let oil cool for 5 minutes, then carefully measure out 2 tablespoons. Set aside for making cornbread. Using a small pastry brush & some remaining oil, lightly grease a pan with 24 mini muffin cups.
Whisk together the cornbread mix, egg, 2/3 cup applesauce, & 2 tablespoons reserved oil. Crumble in 10 fried sage leaves. Set remaining 2 aside for garnishing. Use a small cookie scoop or spoon to fill muffin cups until all batter is used. Top each with a piece of sausage, pressing them almost to the bottom.
Bake until golden brown, about 10-12 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then gently run a small knife around edges.Remove poppers to a serving platter. Garnish sauce with remaining fried sage. Serve poppers with sauce for dipping.