Sausage -- In a medium saute pan, add the butter and bring to medium high heat. Add the sausage and cook 1-2 minutes. You want them a little brown but not too much. Then remove and transfer to the crock pot or a large pot on the stove.
NOTE: As I said, there are turkey, chicken, pork sausages out there with a variety of flavors. I try to stick with a herb chicken or turkey sausage if possible, but use what you can find. www.aidelle.com has so many great flavors, I just asked my store manager and they ordered it even though they didn't have it. So just check and ask. Many meat markets will carry many flavors as well. Aidelle's is usually just found by the hot dogs and the sausages in most major grocery stores.
Apple and Onions -- In the same pan to the sausage drippings, add the apples and onions and cook 3-4 minutes. Then transfer to the crock pot as well or a large pot on the stove.
Sauce -- Add the apple cider, beer (wine or broth if you don't want the beer; however the beer really adds tons of flavor), bay leaf, thyme, brown sugar, butter and honey. At this point, I just add a pinch of both salt and pepper. You can also add more after they are done cooking. Stove is approximately 1 hour on medium low. For the crock pot - low for about 3 hours. Three hours works for me, but just test yours after 2 hours to make sure the apples and onions are good and soft.
Baguettes -- As the sausage simmers, toast up your baguettes, I like to thin slice my baguette (or you can use your favorite bread) and toast in a 400 degree oven for 5 minutes until golden brown. Nothing more.
Dips -- Now my friend enjoys a honey mustard. Just mix dijon mustard and honey and set in a small bowl in the refrigerator. My favorite is my swiss cheese sauce. which takes just a minute to make.
A standard bechemel/cheese sauce. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter on med heat and then stir in the flour and mix for about 1 minute until well combined. Add in the milk and stir until thickened. Then add in the cheese and mix on medium low until creamy.
Serving -- Before serving, I check for seasoning - salt and pepper, add if needed. When ready to serve, you will have four bowls which I all put on one platter and then plate the baguettes all around the side. Transfer the apples and onions and juice to one bowl. I try to spoon most of the sausage into one bowl but don't worry if some of the onions and apples get mixed in, it is all part of the same dish (and don't forget to remove the bay leaf and stems from the thyme); and the two dips, the honey mustard and warm cheese dip in the other two bowls.
I like to take a few baguettes, top with the apple & onion mix, a couple of sausage bites and a spoon of the cheese and set to the side so people can see how they go together. I have found some like just the sausage, some like just the apples and onions on the bread and some all separate, but at least I showed how it goes together. It is just really a unique appetizer which can all be made ahead which is the best part.