Heat a 4 to 6-quart heavy-bottomed pot over low heat, and add the salt pork. Once it has rendered a few tablespoons of fat, increase the heat to medium and cook until the salt pork is a crisp golden brown. Remove from pot; set aside. Add the butter, onions, garlic, celery, thyme, and bay leaves. Saute, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the onions are softened but not browned, about 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and the strained clam broth. The broth should just barely cover the potatoes; if it doesn't, add enough water to cover them. Increase the heat, and bring to a boil. Cover, and cook the potatoes vigorously until they are soft on the outside but still firm in the center, about 10 minutes. If the broth hasn't thickened lightly, smash a few potatoes against the side of the pot, and cook 1 to 2 minutes more to release the starch. Remove pot from the heat, and stir in the diced clams and the cream. Season, to taste. If you are not serving the chowder within the hour, let it cool a bit, then refrigerate; cover the chowder after it has completely chilled. Otherwise, let it sit at room temperature for up to 1 hour, allowing the flavors to meld. When ready to serve, reheat the chowder over low heat; don't let it boil. Ladle into cups or bowls, making sure that the clams, potatoes, and onions are evenly divided. Sprinkle with parsley, chives, and reserved salt-pork cracklings.
Scrub the clams, and rinse clean. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in an 8-quart stockpot over high heat. Add the clams, and cover tightly. After 5 minutes, uncover, and stir the clams with a wooden spoon. Quickly cover the pot again, and let steam for 5 minutes more, or until most of the clams have opened. Don't wait for them all to open, or they will be overcooked. It should only take a little tug or prying to open the stragglers once they are all removed from the heat. The total cooking time for large cherrystones will be about 10 minutes; quahogs will need as much as 5 more minutes. While the clams are steaming, the broth should become foamy and light. It usually spills over a bit just as the clams are cooked and ready. As soon as you remove the clams from the stove, carefully pour as much of the broth as you can into a tall, narrow container. Let the broth sit for 10 minutes, then carefully pour through a fine-mesh strainer. After sitting, 99 percent of the grit will have collected at the bottom of the container. If you are not using the broth within the hour, chill it as quickly as possible, and cover it after it has completely cooled. Keep refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. Remove the clams from their shells, cover, and refrigerate. After they have cooled a bit, dice them into 1/2-inch pieces. Cover again, and keep refrigerated until ready to use.
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