1. Scrub clams and rinse well. Place them in a large pot, add the water, cover, and turn the heat to high. Bring to a boil, and move the clams around so they all cook evenly. Allow them to cook for about 5 minutes, or until the clams open.
2. Strain the broth, using a coffee filter and a sieve to remove the sediment. You should have about 3 cups. (If not, add more water or clam juice.) When cool, remove the clams from the shells and dice into 1/2-inch pieces. Cover and refrigerate.
3. Rinse and dry the pot and heat over low heat. Add the salt pork and cook until crispy and brown. Add the butter, garlic, onions, celery, thyme, and bay leaf and saute, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon for about 5 minutes, until the onions are softened but not browned.
4. Add the potatoes and 3 cups of reserved broth. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; then reduce to simmer for about 8 minutes, or until the potatoes are softened, but not falling apart. Smash a few potatoes against the side of the pot and stir them into the chowder to lightly thicken it.
5. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the clams and cream. Season with black pepper; you may not need any more salt. If you are serving the chowder within the hour, just let it sit and “cure.” (If not, let it cool and then refrigerate until ready to serve.
6. When ready to serve, reheat chowder over medium heat; do not let it boil. Ladle and serve.
From The Summer Shack Cookbook (Norton, 2007)
Per serving: 439 calories, 27 grams protein, 43 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams sugar, 16 grams fat, 108 milligrams cholesterol, 131 milligrams sodium, 6 grams dietary fiber.