Manhattan Clam Chowder

6 lbs. quahog clams, chowder clams or cherrystone clams
3 cups water
6 bacon slices
1 large onion, chopped
¾ cup finely diced carrot
¾ cup finely diced celery
1.2 cup finely diced green bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, miced
2 thyme sprigs or ½ tsp dried leaf thyme
1 bay leaf
about 3 cups bottled clam juice, fish stock or water
1 to 2 tblspn tomato paste
1 (16-oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained, coarsely chopped
3 medium potatoes, peeled, cut in ½ to ¾ inch pieces
Salt and black papper
Finely chopped parsley

Scrub clams with a brush to remove sand from shells; discard clams that do no close. Place in a large kettle with water. Cover and cook until clams open, 7 to 10 minutes. Discard any clams that do not open. Use a slotted spoon to place cooked clams in a large bowl. Holding over kettle to catch juices, remove clam meat from open shells; discard shells. Coarsely shop clams set aside. Strain liquid through several layers of cheesecloth; set aside. Rinse and dry kettle. In same kettle, cook bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towel crumble cooked bacon. Reserve 1 to 2 tblspns bacon fat in kettle over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, green pepper add garlic; sauté until onion is soft and transparent. Add thyme and bay leaf. Measure clam liquid; add bottled clam juice, fish stock or water to make 6 cups. Add onion mixture. Stir in tomato paste and tomatoes with juice. Add chopped clams and potatoes. Cover kettle; gently simmer 1 hour. Season with salt and black pepper. Ladle chowder into a tureen or server in individual bowls. Garnish with crumbled bacon and parsley. Makes 8 (1 ½ cup) servings.