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2 pounds lean ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground veal
1 large yellow onion -- minced
1 small red bell pepper -- minced
1 stalk celery -- minced
2 cloves garlic -- minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves -- crumbled
Salt and pepper -- to taste
2 large eggs -- slightly beaten
30 saltine crackers -- finely crushed
2/3 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a large bowl, combine ground beef, pork, veal, onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper. Add eggs, cracker crumbs, and 1/3 cup of the ketchup. Using your hands, gently mix and form into a thick round loaf, about 7 inches in diameter.

Place a wire rack or metal trivet in a 3 1/2-quart or larger slow cooker. Place meat loaf on a double thickness of cheesecloth {about 24 inches square}. Holding the edges of the cheesecloth, lower meat loaf into slow cooker and position on top of wire rack. Fold cheesecloth loosely over top of meat loaf. Cover slow cooker and cook on LOW for 7 to 9 hours, or on HIGH for 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours.

During last 30 minutes of cooking time, in a small bowl, combine remaining 1/3 cup ketchup, brown sugar, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and cayenne pepper. Spread over loaf. Cook, covered, until done.

Holding the edges of the cheesecloth, lift meat loaf from slow cooker and place it on a heated serving platter. Remove and discard cheesecloth. Let meat loaf stand for 10 to 15 minutes before thinly slicing.

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