Clam Chowder to me is a soup for all seasons. There was a time that I could get fresh dug clams, but to be honest the ones at the fish market and grocery are just about as good and a lot less work. I have even used canned clams, chopped and the little baby one with great results. If you use canned you will need to have a few bottles of clam juice also.
There are as many chowders as there are chowder makers, and a lot of cooks never make it the same way twice. This is a really good one, but feel free to alter it to suit yourself.
Martha's Vineyard Clam Chowder
1 large onion, chopped
Fry the onion and bacon (or salt pork) until the onion is pale and cooked.
Add potatoes and water and boil until the potatoes are done.
Meanwhile, steam the clams, and save the broth. Remove the meat from the shells and grind or chop it, then return it to the broth (using as much broth as suits your fancy) and add the potatoes, onion, kielbasa, and bacon (or salt pork), salt and pepper to taste, and a few shakes of hot pepper sauce.
At this point you can add the milk or you can freeze the chowder base for future use and add the milk later, after you've thawed and reheated the base.