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Clean and prep clams: Rinse and scrub the clams to remove any dirt. Place clams in a bowl, cover with cold, well salted water and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour. This will allow the clams to expel some of their grit into the water. Discard any broken clams or clams that are open and do not close when you touch them.
Steam the clams: Place the clams in a large pot and add about a half inch of water to the pot. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Let the clams steam until they all open up, 5 to 10 minutes. The steaming water may foam up a bit; just watch so it doesn't overflow.Use a slotted spoon to remove the clams from the pot to a bowl. Strain the remaining clam steaming liquid through a fine mesh sieve to catch any grit, and reserve. You should have 2 to 3 cups of clam liquid.Separate the clams from the clam shells. Discard the shells. Roughly chop the cooked clams. You should have 1 1/2 to 2 cups of chopped clams.
Brown the salt pork: Place the salt pork and butter or oil in the bottom of a large, thick-bottomed pot. Heat on medium and brown the salt pork. (Note that if you are using salt pork that is mostly fat, you won't need any additional fat from butter or oil, but you might want to put a little water in the pan to help render the fat from the salt pork.)
Add onion: Add the chopped onion to the pan, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add flour, let cook, then add wine: Sprinkle flour over the onions and stir until everything is coated with the flour. Let the flour cook for a minute or two. Slowly add the white wine to the pot, stirring after each addition.
Add potatoes, clam steaming liquid, spices: Add potatoes to the pot. Add 2 to 3 cups of the strained clam steaming liquid and a cup of water. The liquid should cover the potatoes. If not, add a little more water or clam cooking liquid.Add the bay leaf, thyme, black pepper, and Old Bay. Heat to a boil and reduce to a simmer.Cover and cook for 10 minutes, then add the corn (if using) and cook for 5 minutes more, or until the potatoes are cooked through.
Heat cream: While the potatoes are cooking, heat a cup of cream in a small saucepan until steamy.
Add clams, stir in cream: When the potatoes are tender, add the chopped clams and turn off the heat under the soup. Slowly stir in the heated cream. Adjust seasonings. Stir in the fresh parsley.Note that if you simmer the soup after the cream has been added, the soup may curdle. This is why we turn off the heat before adding the hot cream.Serve with oyster crackers or rustic bread.